The 2021 Nightstream film festival offered a wide array of compelling genre films. Here are capsule reviews of a few of the entries I screened. (Full-length reviews can be found right here.)
All My Friends Hate Me - Cringe comedy is the name of the game in this British film that induces all kinds of uncomfortable squirming. Pete (Tom Stourton) excitedly drives to an estate for his birthday party, hosted by his college pals. Weirdly, though, they act passive-aggressively toward him. A local visitor they've inexplicably picked up, Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), is outright hostile. It's humorous how nothing goes right for Tom no matter how hard he tries to be jovial, and the film is admirable in conceiving various awkward situations for the character. There's a deeper level to the story, though. Tom, who works with refugees, realizes that he's changed. What he's seen in the world has shaped him in ways he wasn't aware of. That gives All My Friends Hate Me a level of substance. If you've ever felt like you've outgrown your pals, this is a movie for you.
To the Moon - To the Moon is a mumblecore-ish thriller about Dennis (Scott Friend) and Mia (Madeleine Morganweck). He's an actor whose career has been derailed by a substance abuse problem, she's a former competitive skater who had to quit after an injury. They plan a weekend getaway in the woods for some healing. Soon after they arrive, Dennis's long-absent brother Roger (Will Brill) shows up unannounced. He's an odd duck into weird forms of meditation, and the couple finds their mental state – and sense of reality – being impacted by him. To the Moon boasts good performances from the three actors. The film is very subtle and low-key, and it's a bit of a shaggy-dog story. Nevertheless, the uneasy interactions between Dennis, Mia, and Roger are well-done. There's also a final twist that offers a touch of poignancy.